Are webinars here to stay? How to run an effective online event
2020 brought with it a whoosh of ‘new normals’. From never-ending Zoom quizzes and fashionable face masks to full-time homeworking (and schooling for many), it’s quite incredible how these formerly alien concepts have become entirely commonplace for us.
Thanks to the pivoting of services, industry-spanning adaptations and new helpful tech products on the market, the business world has itself welcomed new conventions – some more welcome than others.
The popularity of webinars was already on the rise before Covid-19 hit. They’re an impactful communications tool for showcasing thought leadership, provoking discussion and increasing brand visibility. From a strategic content marketing perspective, webinars provide the powerful potential to engage the ‘top of funnel’ leads that are critical to future sales success.
Having seen a surge in number by 330% in 2020 in comparison to 2019 according to ON24, these online events offer a safe, convenient and effective way to keep up with professional engagements and occasions without the need for physical presence. Packed-full conference and exhibition halls have been replaced with attendees logging in from across the country (and even the world), removing the need for travel time and enabling the opportunity for boosted attendance numbers and engagement.
The widespread success of digital-first events suggests that they will be around for some time to come. Here’s our top tips for running an effective webinar:
Define your aims and audience
Take the time to decide the goal of your online event. Is it to present certain knowledge and information to a certain type of professional? Are you offering advice and education to existing contacts or clients? Do you want to increase brand recognition in a specific sector? It is essential to consider why you are running the event in the first place and who it is suited to before deciding anything else, to ensure you don’t move away from this aim when planning content and delivery.
Timing it right
It may sound obvious, but you must carefully consider the date and time of your webinar for the best chance of a good turnout. Research what else is in the events calendar of your desired audience, avoiding any particularly busy weeks that would prove problematic for attendees as well as your internal team. Midweek days are considered the best for hosting a webinar according to stats from digital marketers Outgrow, with Tuesdays and Wednesdays proving the safest bets to avoid competing with start-of-week focus time and end-of-week deadlines. 10am-11am is considered the optimum time to retain attendees’ attention without eating too much into their day.
Content that delivers
It is essential to provide opportunities for your audience to interact with the session to ensure they are engaged and following the content. With large audiences, it can be a daunting prospect and highly impractical to ask attendees to chip in verbally, but there are several effective alternatives. You could ask questions to your audience when they sign up and reveal the answers in the webinar; run live polls during the session; or make the most of the text chat box to allow written questions and comments to name a few. Sharing the results of the audience participation with attendees will build authenticity to the presentation and perhaps prompt debate that will lead to valuable conversations offline.
Spreading the word
Ensure you build in enough time to properly promote your webinar to build attendance numbers. Setting up an Eventbrite event page is a straightforward method of managing attendees and ticket sales if relevant. Design an eye-catching graphic covering the key event details, in the right dimensions to be used across both Eventbrite and relevant social media platforms. Then, get sharing! Encourage your event speakers to share with their networks as well as pushing to your own. If appropriate, consider a news release to relevant trade media titles to gain coverage in specific sectors.
Practice and preparation
Once you have your content sorted, it is essential to build in enough time to rehearse not just the delivery, but the tech functionality too. Diarise a ‘test webinar’ session with the speakers and conduct a dress rehearsal style run-through, taking note of key timings that will keep your webinar running to schedule. On the day, there may of course be unforeseen technical hiccups such as unstable internet, but preparing as best as you can for those elements in your control will pay dividends on the day.
Get in touch with Purplefish if your organisation is interested in running a webinar – we’d love to help!